Whilst out paddling on the lake recently, I came across quite a few crops of wild garlic on the shore line. Wild foraging is really good fun, especially if you can take the time to enjoy the great outdoors and get a bit of exercise while you are at it. It looks like there may be many health benefits of foraging for wild garlic.
Wild garlic is a member of the allium family which include leeks and onions. Different parts of the plant are available at different times of the year. Depending on the weather, the leaves can be available from February but you are more likely to notice them in March and April. The leaves are at their most tender during this time but can still be eaten as late as June. You might notice a slightly different taste to them as the month’s progress.
It is a source of vitamin C. This will be better in its raw form because vitamin C is damaged by heat. It is also a good source of potassium and phosphorous and contains smaller amounts of calcium and magnesium.
It is found in deciduous woodland and also under hedgerows. If you are picking it, take the leaves only and limit how much you remove from each area. This will help to sustain the source as well as allowing others to enjoy the benefits too. Take care not to pick it from the side of a road as it may be contaminated by emissions from vehicles or dogs!
There may be several health benefits to eating wild garlic. When included as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, wild garlic may help to maintain blood pressure at an optimum level. A deficiency in sulphur may lead to an increased risk of hypertension. Conditions arising from this are an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks (1) but this risk can be reduced if you take steps to improve your health and lifestyle. Foods containing organosulphur compounds such as garlic may help to reduce symptoms.
Garlic may help to support several chemical pathways in the body. Nitric oxide (NO) is a vasodilator and along with hydrogen sulphide (H2S), may help with vascular relaxation. Sulphur containing compounds such as garlic help to support the NO and H2S signalling pathways (2). Garlic may also have antimicrobial properties (3) as well as helping to reduce viral activity (4).
Be careful not to mistake wild garlic for Lily of the Valley which is poisonous if eaten or Lords and ladies which has another similar shaped leaf. You can tell the difference because wild garlic smells of garlic and you can often smell it before you see it! If you pick a leaf and crush it in your hand, there will be a strong aroma of garlic. Just watch out because the scent lingers on your hands and it will make it hard to distinguish other leaves. If you are at all unsure, don’t eat it.
What can you use wild garlic leaves for?
Fresh young leaves can be sprinkled through a salad.
Leaves can be wilted into soup.
They can be used in a pesto.
Stems of the plant can be used in place of chives as a garnish.
In the summer, you can also use the flowers as a garnish.
Mix some chopped garlic leaves through scrambled egg.
Recipe Wild Garlic Soup
2 tbsps olive oil
I medium onion chopped
750ml vegetable stock
2 medium potatoes cubed with skin on
2 bunches of wild garlic leaves chopped
Sprinkling of pepper
Medium pan with lid
Heat the oil in a pan
Add the onions and cook gently for 5 mins till soft
Add the potatoes and stock and simmer till you can pierce potatoes easily with a fork (approx. 15 mins)
Add garlic leaves and wilt over a low heat. If you put the lid on, it will only take a minute.
Blend until you get to the desired consistency. I find it blends more easily if you chop the leaves.